With the provincial government poised to wildly expand the availability of alcohol in neighbourhoods and communities, workers at the LCBO have challenged Premier Kathleen Wynne to spend a day on the job in retail stores and warehouses.
“The Liberal government’s cavalier approach to allowing beer and wine into 300 grocery stores is loaded with health care and social impact consequences,” said Denise Davis, chair of the liquor board employees division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “But the premier has provided no indication how the government will handle the harmful side effects of expanded alcohol availability which all leading experts say triggers abuse of a controlled substance and higher costs to taxpayers.
“She’s deliberately ignoring the expert evidence that shows that greater alcohol availability leads to an “alcohol deficit” whereby we spend more treating the harmful side effects of alcohol than we actually take in from alcohol-associated revenue.”
To help the premier understand how the LCBO works at the warehouse and retail level, OPSEU workers at the Crown agency want Premier Wynne to spend a part of her day observing how the corporation operates from the inside, especially the job employees do in blocking sales to minors, inebriated customers and those who purchase spirits, wine and beer on behalf of minors and alcohol abusers.
To date the government and grocery chains which will be licensed to sell beer and wine have been silent on the social responsibility of alcohol sales leading many to believe the respected control which the LCBO currently exercises will be lost in the stampede to sell as much alcohol as possible in private stores.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, whose union represents more than 7,000 LCBO workers, said the government has adopted a reckless approach to its plan to expand beer and wine retail locations by 20 per cent over the 1,500 locations where alcohol is presently available.
“Let’s call this for what it really is,” said Thomas. “This is a golden egg laid for the appetite of the Liberal government’s corporate pals in the grocery industry some of whom, like Nova Scotia-based Sobey’s, don’t even have headquarters in Ontario. Imagine that: profits from private alcohol sales flowing out of the province instead of staying here in Ontario to help fund health care, education and infrastructure.”
Thomas said OPSEU is working closely with other public interest groups to mount a campaign that will demonstrate that Ontario’s alcohol deficit will only grow under the Liberal’s scheme to expand private sales.
“Instead of ignoring expert advice from those who study this issue closely, the government should take a reality check,” said Thomas. “Extensive opinion testing demonstrates clearly that after the initial excitement of wider convenience wears off, public support drops dramatically when people are told of the social and health care consequences of expanded alcohol availability.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas